Soil depth and crop determinants of bacterial communities under ten biofuel cropping systems

Bangzhou Zhang, Christopher Penton, Chao Xue, John F. Quensen, Sarah S. Roley, Jiarong Guo, Aaron Garoutte, Tianling Zheng, James M. Tiedje

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Biofuel-cropping systems, projected for large land areas, can potentially change their soil microbiome and the ecosystem services they catalyze. We determined the bacterial community composition and relevant soil properties for samples collected after 6 crop years at 0–10 cm, 10–25 cm, 25–50 cm, and 50–100 cm under corn, switchgrass, Miscanthus, and restored prairie, as well as 0–10 cm under six additional candidate biofuel crops in replicate side-by side plots. Deep sequencing of the 16S rRNA-V4 region established that soil bacterial communities were significantly differentiated by depth as determined by proportional OTU abundance and composition, UniFrac distance, and taxonomic and indicator analyses. The cropping system significantly impacted bacterial community composition within the top three layers, with corn and switchgrass communities the most different within the 0–25 cm and 25–50 cm depths, respectively. The effects of crop type and depth co-mingled, likely attributed to differences in rooting depth and biomass among crops. Individual phyla demonstrated varying patterns with depth, with significant proportional decreases of Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Planctomycetes, and Bacteroidetes but proportional increases of Firmicutes from shallow to deep soils. The Acidobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, and Chloroflexi peaked in abundance in the middle layers, whereas Thaumarchaeota decreased in abundance. Importantly, some classes within the Acidobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, and Firmicutes followed contrasting patterns with depth suggesting that they have different ecological specializations. Poplar, followed by soils with perennial crops contained the most C in the surface soils, with data indicating that these differences will become more pronounced with time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-152
Number of pages13
JournalSoil Biology and Biochemistry
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Bacterial community
  • Biofuel crops
  • Soil depth
  • Soil properties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Soil Science


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